Ecos - Akademi Sains Malaysia
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Ecos - Akademi Sains Malaysia

Photos by Brad CollisThe International Rice Research Institute isdeveloping high-yielding 'super rites' andurging Asian farmers to protect biologicaldiversity by swapping chemicals for integratedpest management, a move that has broughtremarkable success in the Philippines.Brad Collis heralds the Green-GreenRevolution.From a vine-wrapped lookout abovewind-ruffled ricefields, SesinandoMasajo serves his visitors strong, blackcoffee and regales them with anextraordinary vision: a future in whichfarmer and insect live in peace.Masajo uses no pesticides on his 28-hectare rice farm. He believes all animalsmust be preserved, no matter how harmfula `pest' might be perceived, because anyreduction in biodiversity ultimately willdamage the quality of human life.The sentiment itself is not new, but Masajo is an influential disciple. In the26 years since he last used a chemical pesticide, he has become the highestyieldingrice farmer in the Philippines. This arguably makes him one of Asia'smost successful rice producers.Masajo's average yield of 9.6 tonnes a hectare is three times the Philippinesand Asia average. He attributes his success to the priority he has placed onnurturing the biological vigour of the growing environment.His results, plus the added credence of an agricultural science degreeobtained before returning to the family's Laguna Province rice farm in 1972,have caused a mini revolution. All of the district's 501 rice farmers haveabandoned pesticides.Scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at Los Banos,south of Manila, hope the changing practices in Laguna Province will beemulated by Asia's 200 million rice producers. The institute is trying to makeAsian rice production environmentally sustainable in the face of risingpopulations and declining land and water resources. This means stepping up itsEcos 97 October-December 1998 11

esearch and extension services to repeat the1960s `Green Revolution' with a turn-ofthe-century`Green-Green Revolution'.Sesinando Masajo's approach epitomisesthe integrated pest management (IPM)principles promoted by IRRI. These involvepushing, wherever possible, the replacementof pesticides and herbicides with agronomic,biological and genetic advances.High-yielding new plant type (NPT)rices, or `super rices' with inbuilt pestresistanceare being developed at theinstitute, but probably won't be ready forrelease to farmers in the Philippines foranother five years. And it may be twodecades before scientists in other riceproducingcountries of Asia and Africamodify the new rites to suit local,conditions, especially areas that don't haveirrigation. In the meantime, farmers arebeing urged to protect biological diversityby cutting their pesticide dependence.The potential for yield losses caused bypests remains a threat if chemical pesticidesare not replaced with other control systems.So biological control, such as that practisedby Masajo, has become fundamental forsustainable rice production.Masajo's argument, and the basis of hiscrop management, is that pesticides areunnecessary. His experience is that insectscontrol insects; that natural predatorsemerge before an insect population beginsto cause any economic damage.`Chemical company representatives takedelight in inspecting my crops and tellingme how many insects they find. I say, "sowhat",' Masajo says.`Yes, there are insects in my crops. Yes,there is some visible damage to foliage. Butthis doesn't translate automatically to aneconomic cost; to a detrimental impact onyield. Wherever there are insect pests thereare natural enemies - unless you haveinterfered by using chemicals.`The trouble for a lot of farmers,especially in Asia, is that they have been toldinsects are bad. It's taken a long time forfarmers in this district to relax when theysee rice-plant insects, because for yearswe've had the big companies telling us wemust use pesticides.'Masajo says the psychological hurdle forfarmers is the presence of a large number ofinsects eating into a crop during the firstfew weeks after planting because naturalpredators, particularly spiders, have beenreduced during land preparation.`The first generation of pests multipliesquickly,' Masajo says. `This is when thefarmer sees the most damage, so will quicklyapply a pesticide. But if you wait, say four tosix weeks after planting, the natural enemiescatch up, reducing the pest numbers. Therice plant recovers and the yield is ultimatelyunaffected.'Before taking over the family's 2.5-hectare farm in 1972, Masajo worked on acorporate rice farm where the practice wasto spray pesticides three to five times duringeach crop cycle. `I used to notice that eachtime the chemical was sprayed, the numbersof insects pests actually seemed to increase,'he says.Soon after returning to his home farm,Masajo decided to stop using chemicals andsee what happened. The result was thatpredators, particularly spiders, were nolonger killed. This meant he could focus onhis overall rice production system, leavingpest control to other insects. As yieldsclimbed and costs fell, the family farmstarted to expand and today is large for anAsian family farm.`Now none of the farmers in Laguna usespesticides and we pride ourselves onproducing the best rice in the Philippines,'Masajo says. `We also live without fear ofpoisoning our children.'Scientists first faced the challenge ofdoubling Lice yields in Asia 30 years ago.That they did is an extraordinary effortwhich staved off famine and allowed theAsian economic miracle to begin.Right : Sesinando Masajo and his son , Joseph , use a flame thrower to control rats in their crop.Above : Masajo 's average yield of 9 .6 tonnes a hectare is three times the Philippines and Asiaaverage. He attributes his success to the priority he has placed on nurturing the biological vigourof the growing environment.12 Ecos 97 October-December 1998

It was done by transforming thetraditional rice plant: reducing its heightfrom 1.5 metres to under a metre to helpthe stalks carry more grain. This change alsoreduced the growing period from 160 to110 days, allowing two to three irrigatedcrops a year. From 1967 to 1992, rice yieldsacross Asia doubled. In some countries,such as Indonesia, they trebled.But scientists today say it pales against thechallenge facing them now. Despite thedramatic lift in production, almost no Asianrice is traded. Little is left after domesticconsumption. In fact, the threat of faminehas never been far behind Asia's fleetingeconomic heels.The demand for rice continues toincrease due to unabated populationgrowth. It's expected that the world's riceharvest must increase from 560 millionA revolutionaryvisionTHE International Rice ResearchInstitute (IRRI) is an autonomous, nonprofitagricultural research and trainingcentre, whose purpose is to sustainablyincrease total food production fromrice-based farming systems. It wasestablished in 1960 by the Ford andRockefeller foundations in cooperationwith the Government of thePhilippines.Most of IRRI's research is donetogether with national agriculturalresearch and development institutions,farming communities and otherorganisations that share its goals. Itsresearch centre includes laboratoriesand training facilities at a 252-hectareexperimental farm on the campus ofthe University of the Philippines LosBanos, about 60 km south of Manila.IRRI developed the first semi-dwarfbreeding lines for rice in the mid-1960s. The high yields and rapidfarmer adoption of the new grainvarieties triggered the GreenRevolution. National agriculturalprograms worked in cooperation withIRRI to intensify rice production. TheIRRI rites were soon followed bydozens, then hundreds, of semi-dwarfsdeveloped by scientists in nationalprograms.By 1991-93, total rice production inSouth and South-East Asia hadincreased by 120% since the start ofIRRI's research, while the land plantedto rice had increased by only 21 %.Rice surpluses and low prices inrecent years have given an impressionthat the world's food productionproblems are solved. But primericelands are under pressure. Resourcepoorfarmers and the rural landless inAsia are being forced to till highlyerodible and marginal lands, or tomigrate to urban areas in search oflivelihood, often leading to even morepoverty.IRRI was established as theprototype for a world network of 16non-profit international agricultural,forestry, and fishery research centressupported by the Consultative Groupof International Agricultural Research.Ecos 97 October-December 1998 13

yield(tJha)4.0 r3. 51965-751,,, 11981.1985-94Sources of growth in world rice production . 1965-94.per capita production.(kglcapitalyear)716061 65 69 73 77 81 85 89 94yearGrowth in rice yield and per capita riceproduction in Asia.population ( millions)6000 -50004000300020001000043,1 ;t14701975-85yearurban populationrural population1501401301965 1975 1985 1995 2005 2015 2025yearProjection of population and urbanisation in Asia.120110100tonnes to at least 880 million tonnes by2025, and it all has to come from existing,or even less, cultivated land.Rice land being consumed by urbangrowth cannot simply be replaced byclearing more forests or expanding intomarginal areas. Countries such as thePhilippines don't have much forest left.VietnamPhilippineThailandD 1990® 2025I 2 3 4 5 6cubic metre (thousands)Projected change in per capita water resources.ChinaEast & SE Asia(excl China)South AsiaAfricaLatin America& the CarribeanMore developedregions200 400 600 800million peopleProjected increase in population in thenext three decades compared withincrease in the past three decades.2 3 4US$ 1000 per haReal capital cost for construction of newirrigation systems.And there are other harsh realities. Globalfresh water supplies are barely half whatthey were 20 years ago, and according tothe United Nations, consumption isdoubling every two decades.Earlier this year the UN reported that aquarter of the world's 5.9 billion peoplehad no access to clean drinking water andthat water shortages were emerging as themost serious threat to world peace. Thedeveloping world will be adding another2.31 billion people in the next threedecades, compared with an increase of 2.12billion in the previous three (see graphs).Thus the `Green-Green Revolution' nowchallenging scientists at IRRI is to lift yieldswith less land and water without chemicalpesticides and herbicides, to protect thebiotic resource base from which all foodmust come.This quest to keep food, water, populationand environmental sustainability inbalance now rests on a single ambition: awhole new rice plant, structurally andgenetically far removed from traditionalvarieties that have sustained humans for thepast few thousand years. The natural plantthat evolved with the strength to supportup to 800 grains is being re-engineered toproduce 2000 grains and to be strongenough to carry the load.The new rice plant will also need to bedrought-resistant and pest-resistant, andhave the capacity to genetically outcompeteweeds. In countries such asBangladesh it will be modified further to beflood-tolerant. In all cases, its aroma, tasteand nutritional composition will beenhanced or stabilised. In 30 to 50 years,the temperature-sensitive rice plant will alsoneed to tolerate higher temperaturesbecause of global warming.IRRI's deputy director for research,Australian scientist Dr Ken Fischer, saysplait breeders will have to push biologicalsystems to new limits if rice production - inSouth-East Asia, South America and muchof Africa - is to keep pace with populationgrowth.It's a race against time, with the firstreports of drought-induced famine alreadycoming out of countries such as Indonesiaand the Philippines this year.`Yields must be lifted from an average offour tonnes a hectare to more than 12t/ha,' Fisher says. `To achieve this we'reredesigning the whole plant from thebottom up. It will have increased photosyntheticcapacity and will need to put moreof this increased energy into grainproduction, instead of biomass. Theexisting plant has 40 to 50 tillers (stems) ofwhich 30 are productive. The new plant willhave 20 to 30 tillers and all will beproductive.'Some 5000 litres of water is neededproduce one kilogram of rice undertraditional paddy field production. The`super rice' will be developed initially forirrigated regions, but further modificationswill enable it to perform in drier conditions14 Ecos97 October -December 7998

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